Dr. Flavius C. Killebrew Assumes the Helm of Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi
New Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi President Dr. Flavius C. Killebrew is rapidly making the transition from West Texas range to Gulf Coast breezes as he enters his second month at the Island University.
A native of the West Texas town of Canadian, Killebrew previously enjoyed a 29- year career at West Texas A&M University (WTAMU) in Canyon, where he served on the biology faculty, as dean, and as provost and vice president for academic affairs.
The long-time educator was considering studying medicine after high school. “As I went through my educational career I had several opportunities to get involved with research in science, starting in my undergraduate years. I found that I enjoyed taking a puzzle and then trying to figure it out—that’s really what research is all about.” He also began teaching biology labs, where “I found that I really enjoyed the transfer of knowledge to young people.”
Along the way, Killebrew was fortunate in having mentors who taught him the value of seeking external funding to support research efforts, and this led to involvement in legislative affairs, at the state and federal levels. “I found out very early that your school doesn’t necessarily have big pots of money to fund your work. My major professor told me that basically, you need to write for a grant, and you sure won’t get the money if you don’t apply for it.”
When Killebrew was dean at WTAMU, he was given the opportunity to begin developing relationships, particularly in Washington, with granting agencies. “Later, as provost, that background in legislative affairs helped me make a contribution towards the University meeting its goals during fiscally challenging times.”
An active researcher even as an administrator, Killebrew is a recognized expert on Cagle’s Map Turtle, Graptemys caglei, which, based largely on his efforts, has been recommended for listing as a threatened species. “For the past 20 years my research has been focused on this turtle, which only is found by the Guadalupe River in South Texas. I am in the process of editing in my spare time two papers on the turtle and another for publication in an international journal.”
A declared advocate of students and a strong believer in student activities, Killebrew remarked on the reason the University was built. “The reality is that we were built to serve the educational needs of the students. Faculty members are lucky in that they are reminded of that every single day. The further you are away from that, the easier it is to forget, so one needs to stay involved with students so as not to forget why you are here.”
In a related vein, Killebrew believes in involving and motivating students. “I am a big advocate for providing students the opportunity to work with faculty in a research lab or in teaching. I think it is one of the best retention mechanisms.”
Killebrew first joined the WTAMU community as an undergraduate in 1967, earning bachelor’s and master’s degrees. In 1976 he received a doctorate in zoology from the University of Arkansas, and the same year he was appointed to the WTAMU biology faculty.
He reached the rank of tenured professor in 1991 and was appointed interim provost and vice president for academic affairs in 1994. The following year the appointment was made permanent.
He is married to the former Kathy Bartley and has one daughter, Arian, and a granddaughter, Kamryn.